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Parties have legal leg to stand on in challenging the IEC

Published Sep 7, 2021


Legal and political experts believe that opposition parties and public interest groups seeking to challenge the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) decision to reopen registrations for candidates may have a leg to stand on.

The IEC, this week, announced a new window for registration of candidates who failed to register to stand for this year’s local government elections.

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This was met with mixed reactions from political parties and independent groups.

The DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille said the Constitutional Court judgment underscored the importance of a voter registration period, which they welcomed.

However, she said “the opposition party ’strongly objects’ to the use of the window to reopen candidate registration. The two are clearly distinct from each other. There had been no prior weekend dedicated to voter registration because this was cancelled in July due to the Covid spike. However, there was a clear deadline for candidate registration, which the ANC missed.”

The IFP said granting the chance for parties to register their candidates were merely meant to accommodate the ANC.

IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the IEC’s announcement showed they were operating with political bias.

He said the IFP was also consulting with its legal team to consider the best possible legal avenues regarding the IEC’s amendments to the electoral timeline.

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He noted that the IFP was not granted the same chance during the 2011 local government elections and the NFP was also unable to participate in the 2016 elections over glitches with the IEC.

Constitutional law expert, advocate Paul Hoffman, said it seemed the IEC misread the ConCourt’s order.

“Political parties cannot ask for the late registration of candidates. That horse has bolted.

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“Should any political party or public interest group approach the courts, they should also ask for punitive cost awards because it is clear the IEC is not behaving in a responsible manner,” Hoffman said.

He took a dim view of the way the IEC interpreted the court order saying the commission seemed to be seeking to make things easier for those who slipped up, such as the ANC which missed the deadline.

“They are trying to allow candidates in through the back door that had actually been slammed and locked,” Hoffman said.

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Another constitutional law expert, Professor George Devenish, said that opposition parties had a right to ensure the country stayed on the right track in a constitutional democracy and that by approaching the courts, they were exercising that right.

“Those parties should not approach the courts in a malicious manner but based on their outrage; it is clear their sense is telling them something is not right here. They have every right to take the decision under judicial review,” he said.

Following its failure to secure the Constitutional Court order to postpone the October elections, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said in view of the fact that the voter registration process had been reopened, a number of amendments to the electoral timetable were necessary, including the need to set a new deadline for candidate nominations.

For the first time in history, the ANC faced the prospect of not contesting for 93 municipalities in which it had missed the deadline for nominations.

Political Bureau

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